NASHVILLE – Christmas music is nearly inescapable every December and most Americans enjoy it.
According to a new LifeWay Research study, 70 percent of Americans enjoy hearing Christmas songs in December and 86 percent believe school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.
However, in the November 2012 online survey of 1,191 Americans, one in five Americans (21 percent) said the prevalence of Christmas music in December is “overdone” while 7 percent find it “annoying.”
“When seemingly everyone does something,” LifeWay Research director Scott McConnell commented, “it is sure to grate on someone’s nerves. But 10 times as many people find Christmas music everywhere enjoyable than find it annoying.”
More than eight in 10 (83 percent) Americans who consider themselves to be a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian say they find the prevalence of Christmas music enjoyable compared to 59 percent of those who “never” attend religious services, according to the survey, which was released Dec. 17.
Favorite types of music
When it comes to which type of Christmas music Americans prefer, 67 percent say they enjoy listening to “both secular and religious Christmas songs.” Eleven percent enjoy only “secular Christmas songs” as opposed to 6 percent who say they enjoy hearing only songs of a “religious” nature. One in 10 Americans say they prefer not to hear any Christmas music.
Demographically, secular Christmas songs are more popular among Americans ages 18-29 and those who never attend religious worship services. Twenty-two percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are most likely to say they enjoy secular Christmas songs while also being the least likely (50 percent) of all age groups to say they enjoy both secular and religious Christmas songs.
Americans who never attend religious services are least likely (45 percent) to enjoy both types of songs. Nineteen percent in this subgroup say they only enjoy secular Christmas songs in December.
Americans 65 and over (81 percent) are the most likely to say they enjoy both types of Christmas songs. Seventy-six percent of Americans who self-identified as born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist also say they enjoy both types.
McConnell said secular traditions and religious observances often overlap for Americans at Christmas, but they appear to be “comfortable with this blend when it comes to Christmas music. Many Christmas songs have long histories and are entrenched in December traditions.”
School choirs and bands
One of the times the two types of music come together is during performances by public school choirs and bands. A large majority of Americans (86 percent) agree that public school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.
Only 9 percent say religious Christmas music should not be performed by public school choirs and bands. Six percent said they don’t know.
Americans from the South (65 percent) are more likely to say religious Christmas music should be allowed as compared to those in the West (57 percent).
Weekly attendees of religious services (76 percent) and Americans who call themselves a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian (88 percent) are more likely to strongly agree that religious Christmas music should be allowed.
Age plays a factor with nearly three out of four Americans age 55 and over strongly agreeing as compared to 60 percent of those 30-44.
The survey also shows men are less likely than women to strongly agree (57 percent to 66 percent) that public school choirs and bands should be allowed to perform religious Christmas music.
Methodology: The survey, conducted Nov. 14-16, 2012, sampled an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 1,191 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ atop LifeWay carols
Every year, new Christmas songs are written and performed by popular artists from nearly every music genre, but inside churches, the classics still reign.
The most popular Christmas songs downloaded or sold through LifeWayWorship.com are:
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Joy To The World! The Lord Is Come
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Angels We Have Heard On High
Christ Has Come
Silent Night, Holy Night
O Holy Night!
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Go, Tell On The Mountain
The First Noel
Angels, From The Realms Of Glory
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Away In A Manger
What Child Is This
Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy)
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, said most Christmas carols go back to the 13th century.
“Carols were primarily art songs in nature with spiritual or religious themes. As time went by, they became more about the nativity of Christ,” Harland said. “The carols associated with Christmas tended to survive. By the 16th century, the Christmas carol was here to stay.
Now, Harland said, there’s “a certain nostalgia with these familiar classics.”
“People like to sing what they know, and especially at the holiday season it takes you back to places in your memory – singing the same song as a child at Christmas.
“Christmas is a singing season,” Harland said. “It may be the most sung-about season of all. Almost everyone will sing during the Christmas season at one point or another, even if they don’t normally sing at all. The familiarity of the songs is the main factor with this.”